Retiring In Southeast Asia Is Not For Everyone

You have all seen the ads touting retirement in an exotic south seas location, but is this really a viable option for you?  Here are some things to consider: 

1.  Air Travel. 

If you are afraid of flying, this 16 hour plus trip will certainly test your nerves.  There will be a stop somewhere along the way if you are coming from North America, and you will lose a day when you cross the International Dateline.  Australians can fly direct from most locations in Australia.  Another consideration is cost. If you are planning to return to the states every year, the round trip can run between $900 and $2000 per person.  

2.  Grandchildren.  

If you are a doting grandparent, separation anxiety can be a real strain on your ability to enjoy your time in paradise. Whether you are a full timer, or choose to spend only part of your year away from family, even if you are connected to the internet with enough speed to allow “facetime" or other video calls home, you will soon discover it is just not the same as being there.

3.  Health.  

Although the people of Southeast Asia live a relatively healthy lifestyle, expats tend to hold on to their "meat and potatoes" lifestyles after arrival.  Health care in S.E.Asia is largely based on prevention rather than treatment.  Don't get me wrong, health care in places such as Bangkok and Singapore is world class.  Many people come from all around the world to have procedures performed at a fraction of the cost in their home countries. If you are diabetic, hypertensive, or require ongoing medical care, be sure your desired location has medical facilities that can support your medical requirements.

4.  Disabilities.  

The Americans with Disabilities Act has gone a long way to make the country accessible to individuals with mobility issues.  Don't get the idea that these laws are followed in the "third world".  Many international hotels and resorts tend to uphold western accessibility standards to a degree.  Houses, villas and apartments, not so much.  Just finding such things as grab bars, under sink pipe insulation, accessibility design toilets, etc can be a real challenge. I personally have never seen a vehicle with a wheelchair lift, much less ramps to allow access to buildings with stairs. 

5.  Maintaining an address in your "home country". 

Don't get the idea that you can sell your home, your furniture, your car, pack your suitcases and hop a flight to your retirement in paradise.  Wrong!  Do you have any credit cards?  The issuer will want your address.  If it is a grass hut in Borneo, say goodbye to your cards.  Do you have a bank account...maybe the one your retirement check is going to?  Address in Bora Bora?  Say goodbye to your bank account.  Got an investment account manager?  They may have problems servicing your account unless you have an address in the country of your account.  You are still required to file income tax returns.  Want to vote?  How about a drivers license?  Insurance?  Yeah, no home country address can be a real problem. P O Box?  Not really.  Try that on your credit card provider.  

These are the biggest issues to consider, but there are others.  Language, local customs, religious practices, transportation, dietary requirements, medication availability, beauty products, pets, big and tall clothing, and on and on.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not just visiting potential retirement locations, but "living" in the spots that make the final cut.  Do your best to discover all those little surprises before you make the big move.  

John is the CEO of International Developments at 8° South.  His latest project is The Retirement Village at Tegallinggah, North Bali, Indonesia.